Welcome to the Pocket Pet Dept.!

"Pocket pets" are gerbils, hamsters, mice, rats and other rodent species like degus, hedgehogs and spiny mice. All Pocket Pets shown in Massachusetts must be species that can be legally owned without a special permit. Our event will be held on Saturday, August 23th at the Fairgrounds. Animals should arrive between 8:00 and 8:30 AM for health check.

4H members and their pets can compete in Breed Class events, in Fitting and Showmanship, with static exhibits, and in fun events. The final list of events for 2008 will appear in the Premium Book.

Breed Classes

Pocket pets are judged against a relevant breed standard. The animal that scores best against the standard is the winner. We will use the following national breed standards:

Fitting and Showmanship

Like fitting and showmanship events in other departments, the Pocket Pet Fitting and Showmanship event judges an exhibitor's knowledge, presentation skills, and preparation of his or her animal for show. In contrast to the breed classes, an animal need not be of the highest quality compared to its breed standard to win. Rather, the exhibitor is judged on what he or she knows about the animal's characteristics and the extent to which the exhibitor has made that animal the best that it can be.

Fitting and Showmanship will be judged using a modified version of the American Fancy Rat and Mouse Association (www.afrma.org) Junior Showmanship Handbook standard, as follows:

Exhibitor will remove the animal from the show box and will be judged on how well they handle and control it. The exhibitor will then systematically examine and describe to the judge the condition and quality of the animal's ears, eyes, body, coat, color, tail, teeth, head and muzzle, legs and feet. She or he will state the animal's gender. Judges will rate the exhibitor on knowledge, appearance, conduct, awareness of the animal's limitations and steps taken to maximize that animal's potential. The animal's overall condition will be rated by the judges. The judges will rate the animal's housing for its cleanliness, appropriateness, and level of stimulation/interest for the animal.

Animals will be brought to the judges' table in a plastic Kritter Keeper. For the Cage/Habitat judging, exhibitors may:

  1. bring the animal's regular housing thoroughly cleaned to the Fair, or
  2. if the animal's regular housing is too large or heavy to transport easily, bring a photograph and written or verbal description of the regular habitat. In this case, the cleanliness of the temporary exhibit housing will be judged.

Static Exhibits

We will have a poster contest and a sign-making contest. The poster should be an educational display that demonstrates your knowledge and love for your small pet. The sign contest is to construct a high-quality, reusable sign to point visitors to our location. See the Premium book for details.

Fun Events

Fun events for this year will include:

Obtaining Pets

You must own your pocket pet as of July 1st to show it in the Fair. Pocket pets need not be "purebred". They can come from a shelter, a breeder, a pet store, a friend's accidental litter - any domestic source. They may not be wild-caught.

If you already have a pocket pet, do not worry about how your pet "rates" against the breed standard. Your pet is valuable and you will learn a lot, no matter where your pet comes from or what it looks like.

Because of the short life-span of Pocket Pets, it can happen that your project animal passes away after July 1 and before the Fair. In this case, you may be able to obtain another animal of the same breed and type to complete your project. Contact the Department Chair in this situation.

If you plan to get a Pocket Pet to show, please consider these sources:

  1. Save a life! Many animal shelters have mice, rats, gerbils and hamsters up for adoption every day. Check out www.petfinder.org.
  2. Help a neighbor! Lots of people get pocket pets for their children. Then the kids lose interest and the pet needs to find a new home. You can find small animals looking for homes every day on Craig's List or through your community. Tell the next 10 people you meet that you are looking for a pocket pet, and ask them to tell the next 10 people they meet. You'll have a pet in no time.
  3. Buy from a breeder. Breeder-raised animals are far more likely to be well-socialized, not pregnant, and hand-tame when you buy them. Many breed organizations have breeder directories. See American Gerbil Society, Rat and Mouse Clubs of America, American Fancy Rat and Mouse Assoc., and Syrian Hamster Breeders United, or just do a Google search!

Other Links

About the Dept. Chair

The department chair is Libby Hanna, a Board Member of the American Gerbil Society and a Certified Judge. Her kennel, Shawsheen River Gerbils has placed over 300 gerbils and other small animals in new homes. Libby works with children through Girl Scouts, Sunday School, 4H and in the community to educate people about Pocket Pets and earn them the respect they deserve as companion animals.

Email: gerbils@hannas.com